8 September 2023

City superheroes share top tips for making the most of your FOGO bin

| Jen White
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Woman cooking in a kitchen.

Anne is one of the FOGO “superheroes” in Wollongong Council’s campaign to encourage residents to make greater use of the waste system. Photos: Wollongong City Council.

Wollongong residents have been described as superheroes for embracing the use of benchtop FOGO bins and helping to remove tonnes of unnecessary waste from landfill.

Wollongong City Council introduced FOGO (food organics, garden organics) in 2020. Every household which has a green garden bin was given a smaller version for inside the house, along with compostable bin liners, to encourage residents to use it for food scraps, rather than throwing them in the usual rubbish bin.

The FOGO bin is emptied into the green garden bin, the contents of which are taken to a purpose-built waste facility, SOILCO, in Kembla Grange to be turned into compost.

The material is processed and tested for germs and screened before being sent to large remediation projects, or added with other materials to produce a soil conditioner suitable for top-dressing sports fields, tree plantings, and to be bagged into compost products.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said council had been “blown away” by the community’s response to FOGO.

“In 2022, we diverted 56,000 tonnes of emissions from landfill. That’s the equivalent of removing 12,462 cars from the road for a year,” Cr Bradbery said.

“That’s an incredible community effort.”

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However, council is encouraging more residents to jump on board the environmentally-friendly waste system and has launched a new education campaign to encourage people to use FOGO.

“We have new residents who may have moved recently and are using their green-lidded bins for food scraps for the very first time,” Cr Bradbery said.

“There are also many people in our community who want to participate but are unsure about what to put in the FOGO bin, as well as some who aren’t using it at all.”

Things that can go in FOGO include food scraps (meat, bones, dairy, citrus, mouldy and out-of-date food), grass clippings, leaves, shrubs and weeds. As FOGO is processed at high heat, any seeds or roots from weeds won’t resprout.

You can’t use FOGO for tissues, paper, cardboard (including food-soiled pizza boxes), tea bags, coffee filters, biodegradable bags, or takeaway packaging marketed as compostable or biodegradable.

“Our focus for this FOGO campaign is on the people who aren’t using FOGO or could improve how they currently use it,” Cr Bradbery said.

“To inspire change, we’ve called on our community experts to unmask themselves as ‘FOGO Heroes’.

“Each resident takes a different approach to FOGO and has tips and tricks to share on how they make FOGO work for them. We’re also inviting everyone in the community to become a FOGO Hero simply by committing to using their FOGO weekly.”

Cr Bradbery said removing as much unnecessary waste as possible from landfill would help the city reach its zero emissions target by 2050.

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Council suggests using a compostable liner in your FOGO, which keeps it clean and makes it easier to move food waste to your green bin.

If you need more bin liners, look for those displaying the AS 4736 code and seedling logo, which can be bought at most supermarkets.

Council’s Wollongong Waste website has a detailed list of what can and can’t go in FOGO bins, as well as some handy tips on using FOGO, many from its “heroes”.

The Domestic Goddess – Anne
Anne likes a neat and tidy kitchen and has many tricks and tips to share on how to use FOGO without the yuck factor, including:
* If you prefer a clean and uncluttered benchtop, tuck your caddy away under the sink, or use one of the compartments in your pull-out bin drawer if you have one.
* To reduce the risk of pests and smells, keep food scraps in a FOGO caddy liner or container in the freezer until bin night.
* Empty your caddy into the green bin every day or so.
* Wash your caddy regularly.

Simon throwing scraps from his FOGO bin into the green bin.

Simon is an enthusiastic FOGO supporter.

The Lone Wolf – Simon
Simon lives alone with his two dogs. He might not have a lot of food waste, but he still uses FOGO and puts his green bin out weekly because he knows every little bit helps. He says every household can save 150 kg of waste from ending up in landfill each year.

Rachel and son Charlie in the kitchen.

Rachel and her son Charlie – Rachel says you’re never too young to FOGO.

The Space Savers – Rachel and Charlie
Rachel and her son Charlie are super keen FOGO users and have been on board since day one. Rachel’s top tip is to keep the FOGO in the fridge to cut down on insects and smells. She says it also serves as a reminder to go through the fridge the night before the bins are collected to get rid of anything that might be beyond its use-by date.

Mel and Dave in the garden with their green waste bin.

Mel and Dave in their garden.

The Green Thumbs – Melissa and David
Mel and Dave love their garden, their chickens and composting. They use FOGO for all the things they can’t use in their garden like dairy, citrus, meat, bones, shellfish and weeds.

Other handy FOGO tips:
* To get rid of any fruit flies hanging around, place a saucer or small cup with a little apple cider vinegar in it and a dash of dishwashing liquid. Place near caddy. This also works well placed next to your fruit bowl – especially if you have bananas!
* If you have space, keep the caddy in the fridge during summer, or a compostable liner bag with your food scraps in the freezer.
* Line the bottom of your caddy with paper towel – or a slice of bread – to absorb any liquids or odours.
* Sprinkle bicarbonate soda in the bottom of your caddy to reduce odour.
* Put smelly leftovers in a container, compostable liner, or rolled in newspaper, and put them in the freezer until bin night.

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